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Gateshead Storm 36 East Lancs Lions 10 Sun Apr 19, 2009 9:23 am  

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Gateshead Storm 36 – 10 East Lancashire Lions
Adam Houston reports from Bullocksteads

Gateshead Storm eventually kicked off their Rugby League Conference National campaign, after their 2 previous opponents were unable to raise a side, replicating their opening fixture of last year. East Lancashire Lions made the trip to Bullocksteads eager to make amends for the 62-18 defeat in the corresponding fixture last season and Storm were looking to kick start their season with a Win, hopeful to go one better than last year and make the playoffs this time round.

The visitors started strongest and after Storm gave away back to back penalties for interference at the play of the ball, they opened the scoring in the 2nd minute when strong running from hardworking prop Jonathon Cunningham saw Anthony McNulty the grateful recipient of a neat offload to cross untouched out wide, leaving Paul Crook with a difficult conversion he failed to convert.

This seemed to be the wakeup call the hosts side needed and after sustained pressure on the Lion’s line, followed up by a strong break from Michael Lassen, the winger making 60m before being hauled down yards short, player-coach John Coutts dummied & broke through the line to pull things level, his conversion striking the upright, failing to give the home side the lead. The lead then came 4 mins later when Josh Stoker breached the visitors line again after strong Storm defence forced an error, the young centre crossing against the sliding defence. Coutts this time adding the extras.

With the sides trading possession, and Storm maintaining good field position, a neat grubber on the 5th tackle by influential Stand Off Craig Fisher, making his return to the side, saw debutant Kevin Davey quickest to react, pouncing on the loose ball in the corner. Again Coutts conversion striking the upright. As the half hour mark came up, Fisher’s tactical kicking caused the visitors further problems, this time Andrew Morris winning the foot race with Lions winger Leon Fifield to ground the grubber in the corner. After consultation with his touch judge, ref Paul Beeby awarded the try which Coutts converted from the touchline.
With Storm turning around on the back of 20 unanswered first half points, they had the first say of the second period when Morris produced an almost carbon-copy of his first try to seal his brace, again Fisher’s deft grubber weighted to perfection for the speedy Centre to pounce on. Scrum Half Coutts unable to improve this score with the difficult extras.

Another break from Michael Lassen from deep saw him pulled down short of the line, Skipper Chris Burnett crossing for a trademark score from close range, punishing poor work at marker to allow Coutts the easy extras from strait in front. Morris’ pace continued to get the better of the visitors when again he gathered a kick on the last, and when the tackle count was wiped after the Lions winger was judged to have played at the ball, Mick Dixon benefitted from Morris’ quick play to scoot over untouched. Coutts again tagging the difficult extras from out wide.

A spirited fightback looked to be on the cards from the Lions when a clever chip over from influential Stand Off Crooks saw Barry Rothwell gather and draw the full back to put Bradshaw in the clear, however the Second Rower was unable to gather the ball and knocked on with the line beckoning. Again Rothwell breached the tiring Storm defence, his pass to Barry Hamilton this time was judged to be forward giving Storm a big let off.

The visitors did however get a consolation score when Rob Kershaw crossed 7 minutes from time but it was too little too late. The strong elusive Full Back breaking from deep in his own half and outpacing the Storm defence to go under the posts. Crooks conversion leaving the score at 36-10 with the home side pleased to eventually get a run out and kick off the season with a win.

GATESHEAD STORM : Liam Andrews, Michael Lassen, Andrew Morris, Josh Stoker, Kevin Davey, Craig Fisher, John Coutts, David Cash, Chris Burnett, Michael Bryan, Neil Emmerson, Michael Dixon, David Norman

SUBS (all used): Jack Doran, Reece Young, Daniel Bamling, Daniel Barron

EAST LANCASHIRE LIONS: Rob Kershaw, Leon Fifield, Ravi Daniels, Barry Hamilton, Simon Middlehurst, Paul Crook, Ben Williamson, Jonathon Cunningham, Barry Rothwell, Chris Tyrer, Martyn Bradshaw, Chris Ellison, Anthony McNulty

SUBS (all used): Ryan Lowe, Ashley O’Rourke, Jason Lawton, Martyn Thompson


Gateshead: T: Coutts (9), Stoker (13), Davey (24), Morris (30, 46), Burnett (52), Dixon (63)
G: Coutts (4/7)

East Lancs: T: McNulty (2), Kershaw (73)
G: Crooks (1/2)

Man of the Match:
Storm: Craig Fisher, Lions: Jonathon Cunningham

Referee: Paul Beeby

Half Time: 20-4

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